Beauty and the Feast

The best tasting menus in Miami for birthdays and special occasions

There's no need to go small on your birthday (or any special occasion for that matter).

We've rounded up eight of our favorite tasting menus in town, just in time for a certain romantic holiday, too. Here's where to have a multicourse celebration:

① For those who love game: The Cypress Room, Design District

You'll feel right at home in the quaint intimacy of Michael Schwartz's nod to fine dining. White tablecloths, fancy china, chandeliers and deer heads set the scene of a feast very likely to include Everglade frog legs, lamb tartare, pheasant, duck and Wellington. The tasting menu includes five courses chosen daily ($95), as well as the option of having said dishes served with wine pairings ($155).

② For those who like to live on top: Tuyo, Downtown Miami

Being a guinea pig never felt so right. If the stunning views of Biscayne Bay and the city skyline don't make you feel like you're on top of the world (or in this case, atop the Miami Culinary Institute), then perhaps the thought of tasting a menu ($85) specially prepared by award-winning executive chef—and Miami culinary godfather—Norman Van Aken will do the trick. Dishes like slow-braised short rib on smoked celery purée with sautéed rapini and Malbec essence will make you understand why some refer to this restaurant as the city's "crown jewel."

③ For the lovers of the whimsical and bold: Shikany, Wynwood

Taking a cue from the exciting communal dining experiences of our very own Naoe or Chicago-based Alinea, this restaurant's degustation menu can range anywhere from eight to 20 dishes ($110 to $260 a person) and is served at a 23-seat communal table in front of the open kitchen. The ambitious feast is made with modern techniques and small but bracing dishes themed around a protein of the week, which have included uni, lamb and mutton, in inspired off-the-menu dishes such as Big Eye Yaki Udon with poached duck egg, bone marrow relish, pickled mung bean, spicy shiso oil, cilantro and cucumber slaw. The only downside is that the tasting menu is offered only on Fridays, with one seating available at 8:30 p.m., so book in advance.

Triggerfish, part of the tasting menu at The Cypress Room | Courtesy of The Cypress Room

④ For classicists: Palme d'Or, Coral Gables

Remember how we mentioned our favorite rediscovered restaurant in our Best and Brightest recap? Well if you're looking for a classic dining experience for your celebration, look no further than Michelin-starred chef and James Beard Rising Star nominee Gregory Pugin's special preset private menus. The menus can be customized to your liking ($65, $85 and $145), and will be engraved with your name and waiting on your table upon arrival. Want to feel really fancy? Make sure your menu includes the La Langoustine au Caviar dish—a perfectly cooked langoustine tail served with a dollop of Osetra caviar wrapped in a 24-karat gold foil.

⑤ For lovers of all things Italian: Sardinia Enoteca, Sunset Harbor

Restaurateur Tony Gallo and chef Pietro Vardeu are Miami's resident experts on all things Italian, and their flagship restaurant Sardinia Enoteca is one of the best places to experience what the country has to offer, gastronomically speaking. The Sardinia Experience consists of your choice of either the Terra tasting menu ($80 a person), focusing more on provincial dishes like rabbit braised with pancetta and brussels sprouts, or sweetbreads with sage. If you lean on the pescatarian side, the Mare menu ($80 a person) offers seafood-focused dishes including octopus, diver scallops and Sardinian couscous with assorted mollusks.

⑥ For francophiles: Pied à Terre, Miami Beach

The name literally means "foot to the ground." In French it's a way of saying "home away from home"—so if you dream of Parisian eateries, seek out this 36-seat restaurant inside the Cadet Hotel. Explore French cuisine at its finest through a five-course menu ($115 a person, $65 with pairings) that begins with an amuse-bouche of local blue crab consomme, followed by lightly marinated scallops served with caviar and cauliflower blinis, as well as tender flakes of poached sea bass in a saffron and lobster broth. We'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

⑦ For a homey experience: Macchialina, South Beach

If your idea of a perfect celebration calls for a personal touch, then make yourself right at home at the small Italian taverna on Alton Road that has developed a bit of a cult following. That's thanks, in part, to the impeccable hospitality of owner and chef Michael Pirolo and energetic pixie partner Jennifer Chaefsky, whom you can count on chatting with at least a couple of times throughout the course of the evening. Leave it up to them to dazzle you with the chef's tasting menu for the table ($50 a person), which includes five courses of their choosing. Whether you're celebrating or not, we recommend ordering like this regardless.

⑧ For the modest: J&G Grill, Bal Harbour

Okay, so not so modest considering it's chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's original South Florida location and has executed his modern but elegant vision with a curated selection of his internationally renowned favorites. Why we love this tasting menu ($75, and $45 extra for wine pairings) is that it is no frills and straight to the point, made with quality ingredients that shine. The dinner begins with your choice of spicy yellowfin tuna tartare or a straightforward heart of palm salad served atop heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled with coconut flakes. For your main, choose between a delicate red snapper cooked in a sesame broth and served with spaghetti squash and chile oil, or the more robust caramelized beef tenderloin with heirloom carrots and miso mustard. Our tip here is to finish with a bang: Ask artist and pastry chef Antonio Bachour to serve you one of his special dessert creations.